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Two U.S. scientists have developed a technology that transforms CO2 into cellulose, making it possible to manufacture carbon-negative garments.
Concepts such as fast fashion have brought attention to the carbon footprint of the textile industry. Unfortunately, the situation has worsened in recent decades, with studies suggesting that the textile industry could account for 26% of the world's carbon emissions by 2050. To address this issue, reducing garment consumption, promoting recycling, and embracing scientific and technological advances for sustainable raw materials will be key.
One example of progress comes from a Californian startup that has developed textile fibers obtained from CO2, making them carbon negative. This represents a significant step forward in combating the textile industry's environmental impact.
Carbon dioxide obtained through carbon sequestration technologies is the starting point for achieving these sustainable textile fibers. This system captures carbon dioxide emissions from factories and other sources and stores them for later use as a raw material. The company employs biochemical processes using enzymes to transform this captured carbon dioxide into cellulose, which finds application in the textile industry. Initially, they create cellulose pulp sheets, which are later processed into fibers.
The resulting material, known as lyocell, serves in the textile industry and finds use in bedding. Being produced from CO2, it qualifies as carbon negative, meaning its production consumes more carbon dioxide than it emits, making it environmentally beneficial. It is also water- and soil-neutral, causing no adverse impacts in those respects. Moreover, the process generates no waste, contributing further to its sustainability.
The breakthrough technology, developed through a partnership between the Californian startup and a Danish fashion company, was unveiled at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen in 2022. The material contains 20% CO2-sourced fibers, serving as an intermediate step toward producing the first sustainable cellulose garments. The company's founders highlight their key achievement of stabilizing the enzymes in a reactor, enabling the industrial-scale implementation of the process.
The startup responsible for this project was founded by two young scientists, Leila and Neeka Mashouf, who have spent their careers in the U.S. Both hailing from Silicon Valley and graduates of Harvard University, their passion for science was evident from a young age, starting at fifteen. Recognizing an opportunity to infuse their family's fashion business with a fresh technological vision, they established their company in 2020.
In a remarkably short period, their company has successfully collaborated with prominent names in the textile industry, cementing their presence and impact. Additionally, they engage with a broader audience through their TikTok channel, offering popular science videos to the public.
As we move towards a complete shift to renewable energy, one strategy for decarbonization involves reclaiming carbon dioxide and converting it into feedstock as part of the circular economy. A notable application in this area is the technology that transforms carbon dioxide into proteins, accomplished through microbes that consume hydrogen and carbon dioxide, leaving behind a dry residue that consists mainly of pure protein.
This synthetic food innovation holds potential for future Mars missions, where it could be incorporated into the astronauts' diet. Moreover, on our planet, such nutritional alternatives might serve as food supplements to meet human dietary requirements. For further details on this protein technology, you can find more information in this article.
Alternatively, if you are interested in exploring carbon dioxide sequestration technologies, we recommend checking out this article discussing the use of cotton for the development of new CO2 filters, or this one focusing on mineral carbonation techniques that are currently being applied in Iceland.